With the goal to eventually build a 45-location franchise, 20 Lounge gives all 20 digits an affordable and eco-friendly place to relax. Where entertainment meets luxury, 20 Lounge is already in three locations since opening its first nail bar in 2009 and will launch four more by the end of the year. “We want to be the hippest and coolest nail salon,” says Valerie Griggs, owner of the natural nail and gel services franchise.
This innovative business creates a nail experience unlike most through tiered membership, bi-weekly events, and other deep discounts for its customers. With expertise in brand development after owning 20 Lounge’s parent company, V Interior Design and Purchasing (VIDP), for 20 years, Griggs stresses it’s about packaging. “Our whole brand has to be from start to finish — all the way out the door,” she says.
Surrounded by nails as a child because her mother and sisters are cosmetologists, Griggs helps clients in the hospitality industry develop themes, rollout strong brands, and retain continuity. But it’s this experience — not growing up around a salon — that aided Griggs’ decision to start a nail franchise. She’d bounced around to cheaper salons and never settled down as a regular customer. “I thought it would be great to get a better experience,” she says, which prompted her to create a team at VIDP to start researching the nail industry — and so they did in their spare time for about two years.
Cocktails, Shots, and Beers
After opening the first salon in Scottsdale, Ariz., Griggs continues to iron out the 20 Lounge brand approach, where menu items are available in the theme of “shots,” giving a new experience and meaning to the idea of a nail bar. The theme also helps shape the tiered memberships. For example, one $30-per-month membership includes a pedicure and one free “Single Shot,” or basic add-on. Other membership packages include the “Double Shot,” which includes the more expensive add-ons like CND’s Shellac or the “On the Rocks” service, which includes a selection of options.
While clients are charged the monthly membership fee, unlike a gym membership, the service at 20 Lounge isn’t lost if it goes unused during the month. Instead, every fee is “banked” into the account until the client uses it (excluding the free shots).
And what if you’re not a fan of the hard stuff? Try the Beer Menu — that is if you’re looking for some manscaping. “One reason we thought the lounge concept was important is we felt we could capture male clients,” Griggs says. Tween services are also available — alcohol references, not to worry, aren’t a part of this menu.
The nail bar offers more to members than free add-ons. Biweekly events have loyal clients leaving with goodie bags and sometimes hundreds of dollars in free services. And while this may seem steep, she says it gives customers more incentive to upgrade to a membership deal and gets them familiar with services they might not have tried.
The men aren’t left out of the event loop either. With a few big TVs and complimentary drinks, Monday Night Football events are another way the salon reaches out to the oft-forgotten male customer. Men can get a service, have a beer, and watch the game. Men account for about 20% of the business.
Griggs’ goal is about keeping services simple and packaged, whether you’re a member or not. Go in for a pedicure — the salon’s most popular service — or get the triple service that includes a manicure and a facial. “The bigger the package, the more you save — and that’s what people are demanding in this economy,” she says, adding that each client is given an aromatherapy heat neck wrap while they lounge.
20 University and the New Technician
The technicians, who are mostly dual licensees working as estheticians and nail techs, receive 10% commission on retail. They work on hourly wages and keep 100% of their tips. The wages range depending on experience at an average of $10 per hour.
Griggs started 20 Lounge as commission-based, but switched over recently for the advantage of her employees. “Some girls need the time to build a clientele, and we don’t want them to get discouraged,” she says. Another reason for hourly wages is to maintain consistent payroll numbers in order to effectively budget.
20 Lounge’s employees are also offered benefits, such as a 401(k) and health insurance. Griggs doesn’t want a high turnover rate and attributes the hourly wage and available benefits to the fact that since 2009, very few technicians have quit. “The girls like hourly wages because they know what they’re making,” she says. “If for some reason they’re not busy, they’re still getting paid to be there, which is great because if we get a walk-in client we know there is going to be a tech in to take her.”
Walk-in clients hold an important role for 20 Lounge at about 30% of the salon’s business. This is another factor in why Griggs moved to hourly wages — she is able to give each tech “no book” days for the purpose of taking walk-ins.
Educating her techs takes a top priority as well. Griggs wants her techs to be able to identify any problems a client might have, such as if the client should seek a dermatologist.
20 Lounge also takes time to educate the technicians on the culture of the business through “20 University.” Griggs hired a director of training and education to circulate among the salons to provide these educational workshops. The training includes teaching techs about the retail side of things and giving them better product-selling tools. “When they’re educated about retail and excited about it, it makes a big difference in their paycheck,” she says, adding that she pays for techs to get training with products like Dermalogica and OPI.
360 Degrees of Lounging
Member clients get to experience 20 Lounge before even walking in the door, but for walk-ins the adventure starts at the entrance. Griggs ensures that the front desk staff is presentable and welcoming. She invests in the receptionists because they’re the client’s first impression. “The receptionist can make or break the business,” she says.
The front desk accompanies the boutique area, where hand-selected items from a retail buyer out of Los Angeles help to maintain a fresh look. “The salon changed a lot since we hired the buyer — our retail component is blowing up,” Griggs says, adding that the Cardiff-By-The-Sea, Calif., location recently sold $6,800 of retail in a two-week period. 20 Lounge also has “Member Appreciation Day,” where members on the 20th of each month receive 20% off all retail items. Boutique products have a Fred Segal flare and are all under $100. “We’re capturing people with affordable luxury,” she says.
Once past the boutique, you find yourself in the center of 20 Lounge, where the color palette is gender neutral with blues, creams, and browns. Music videos play on the surrounding TVs while women share cocktails over pedicures.
Griggs receives monthly calls from people wanting to start their own 20 Lounge franchise. “We could be selling them right now,” she says, but she wants to ensure brand strength and consistency before expanding out to both coastlines. While four more locations are opening in 2011, with three in Southern California and one in Dallas, this number could’ve likely been higher. “We haven’t busted out yet,” she says.
In a “friendly” campaign that started in July of this year, 20 Lounge hopes to boost its eventual 45-location franchise with $3 million. Griggs aims to raise the total amount by 2013 and was already halfway there as of press time. “We have a huge interest,” she says, “but the important thing for us is I want people to be passionate and understand the vision I have.”
Salon Name: 20 Lounge
Location: Scottsdale, Ariz. and
Owner: Valerie Griggs
Square Footage: 1,550-1,850
Opened: Nov. 2009
Number of nail techs at each salon: 13
Number of receptionists at each salon: 2-3
Specialties: Memberships and events
Compensation: Hourly wage and retail commission
Photography courtesy of 20 Lounge